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Therapy for Chronically Ill Teens

Therapy for Chronically Ill Teens

Counseling for chronically ill teens can improve quality of life.


Therapy for this Chroncially Ill Teen girl helps alleviate sadness in this girl who is grieving over her suffering.Does Your Chronically Ill Teenager Feel Alone in Their Struggle?

Does your teenager live with chronic illness?  Does it feel like they are alone on an island in their misery?  Are they struggling with an autoimmune disorder, POTS, Ehlers-Danlos, Lyme, or some other disorder that is making them a shadow of their former self?

Therapy for chronically ill teens gives space to grieve a changed life while establishing hope.  

One of the hardest things chronically ill teens face is very few of their peers understand the experience.  When you’re 16, almost nobody else is dealing with daily pain, exhaustion, difficulty with digestion, brain fog, etc. 

Every chronically ill teenager we see in therapy needs to process and grieve the experience of being “different” than their friends. Likewise, each teen benefits from looking at how to make meaning of their suffering, which eventually plants seeds of hope and joy. 

Chronically Ill Teens Think They Can’t Do Things:

Teenagers who have chronic illness struggle with their mindset. Without a doubt they are limited. Your teen cannot do what other teens can do. Still, you probably wonder if your teenager is capable of more than he or she is trying to do.

Teens with Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain Feel Depressed:

Pain is depressing. Depression causes pain and pain causes depression. The cycle is absolutely vicious.

Consequently, teenagers who are suffering from chronic fatigue, illness, and pain miss out on a lot of life. They know this. Social media makes it even more evident. It hurts their hearts. That constant sense of feeling left out leads to depressed moods, which exacerbates physical suffering.

Chronically Ill Teens Feel Misunderstood:

Who else their age knows what it’s like? Their peers at school always get better when they’re injured or sick. If they want to run a few miles, they train for a few weeks.

Sadly, your teenager isn’t able to do that. Your teen is hoping to feel well enough to just get to school. They rarely have the sense that their peers truly understand what they go through. This is doubly true for chronically suffering teens who don’t look sick or injured on the outside.

Psychological Effects of Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain on Teenagers:

  • Will my teenager have normal relationships?
  • Is my teen developing resentment or bitterness?
  • How much of my child’s pain is due to the illness, and how much is due to the depression caused by having an illness?
  • How hard should I push my teenager?
  • How can my teen have the happiest life possible given their limitations?
  • Should I allow my teen to persist in their isolation?

Thankfully, counseling with chronically ill teens gives space to start answering these incredibly difficult questions. You and your teenager both have deep, difficult feelings to process about your unexpected reality. Because of this, counseling for teens dealing with chronic illness and chronic pain provides emotional relief.

How Therapy Can Help Chronically Ill Teens:

As someone who lives with Lupus, I (Lauren) had to wrestle with all these questions after my diagnosis.  It took me time to learn I can have joy despite having physical pain. Thankfully, I now know how to participate in my life even if I often must modify activities.

A few years into my journey with my autoimmune disorder, I found myself working with more and more chronically ill teens in therapy.  This has become my favorite counseling work.  Call me selfish, but it gives meaning and purpose to my having an incurable autoimmune disease.  These teens and I develop a strong therapeutic bond because we understand each other in a way that many others cannot.

You and your teen must go through the process of grief, which includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages of grief were theorized to describe the process a person goes through after the death of a loved one.

I tell you firsthand that losing a part of your health, and therefore, losing part of your future vision for your life, means walking through the stages of grief. Each person varies in how long this takes, and sometimes people vary in the order of the stages. It took me 2.5 years to get to the acceptance stage.

Similarly, your teenager will walk through these stages. However, your teen will go through them at their own speed. Chronic illness therapy for teens helps provide support and understanding as you and your teenager grieve a major shift in your lives.

You May Have Questions and Concerns About Teen Counseling for Chronic Illness:

Will my teenager be able to live a normal life?

Yes and no. Your teen always has hope of complete healing or remission. Until then, your teenager must learn to live with gratitude for what he or she can do. Teens who focus on the ways they are able to participate live fuller, happier lives.

Chronic illness or chronic pain is limiting, but it isn’t death. Your teenager has to embrace whatever is possible. Counseling helps teens make as much of an attitude shift as possible while still accepting that there are truly bad days.

How can my teenager have a meaningful social life?

Teenagers who have a lot of physical suffering are wise beyond their years. There are many types of people who make up a social group. Your teen will bring something special to the table because of their wisdom.

Your teen can make and keep friends when he or she opens up about some of their story. Also, your teenager has to focus on the needs of others despite having many needs themself. I realize that’s a tall order for someone locked in a body that isn’t cooperating fully, but it is a necessary ingredient to a full life. Counseling focuses on changing your teen’s outlook as well as grieving and tolerating pain.

My teen’s physical problem is chronic. Does this mean counseling will never end? That could be expensive.

Families handle this in different ways. We all sit together and set goals that we can reasonably accomplish in whatever time we have. In chronic illness/pain therapy for teens, we are looking for a combination of solutions and compassionate understanding. As a result, we hope to see the greatest relief possibly in as short a timeline as possible. 

Teen raising hands in triumph near the ocean.
Live life to the fullest even with chronic illness or pain.

There is Hope to Feel Connected, Joyful, and Purposeful Despite the Suffering:

When working with your teenager, I hope to help you and your child have the space to feel the myriad of emotions that come with your teen’s difficult diagnosis.  After working through the emotional pain and grief, I want to help your child find joy even with chronic illness. 

I want to see your teen tolerate what limitations must be accepted, challenge those that can improve, and start an open-minded path of self-discovery.  If your adolescent can no longer play contact sports, maybe they eventually find joy in playing music (for example). My hope is your teen will no longer languish, focusing on what they can’t do. I want your teenager to realize they are a gift from God and that they still have a beautiful purpose in life.


To discuss more about your teenager’s specific situation, call 949-394-0607.


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